Contentious trusts and probate in Scotland

Anderson Strathern

Anderson Strathern leverages its litigation department to provide a specialised offering across contentious trusts matters for an array of clients, as well as regularly appearing in the Court of Session and Sheriff Courts in Scotland. Solicitor advocate Katrina Lumsdaine manages the practice which features Catriona Watt, who focuses on the use and misuse of powers of attorney and the depletion of estates by attorneys. The team is also supported by a group of experienced associates including Liam Smith and Gary Burton who has a focus on proving the tenor of wills.

Practice head(s):

Katrina Lumsdaine

Other key lawyers:

Catriona Watt; Liam Smith; Gary Burton


‘This team has an impressive client base which provides expertise on contentious and non-contentious matters.’

‘We have been involved in a number of trust natters with Anderson Strathern where court intervention is required (removal of trustees, variations, etc) and where we can’t act for all parties and it becomes necessary to involve other firms in this process. It is great to see a firm whose litigation team have that experience in trust work as not all firms do.’

‘Liam Smith has been our primary contact within the team and he is always approachable, friendly, and great to work with, which is why I tend to refer to work on to him as I know clients are in safe hands.’

Key clients

Office of the Public Guardian

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Work highlights

  • Providing specialised experience in dealing with trust variations in terms of s1(1) of the Trusts (Scotland) Act 1961. These are rare and complex matters which require a petition to the Inner House of the Court of Session.
  • Involved in the first action seeking to rectify a will in terms of s3 of the Succession (Scotland) Act.
  • Instructed by the executor in a Court of Session action to reduce a Certificate of Confirmation and to prove the tenor of a lost Will. Confirmation was applied for erroneously in respect of the deceased’s estate, appointing an executor-dative on an intestacy basis.

Brodies LLP

Brodies LLP has a well-regarded private client practice which combines its strength in commercial litigation to offer an extensive contentious trust offering. Spread over four locations in Scotland, the team covers disputes pertaining to business assets, validity of wills, winding up of estates and executry disputes. The Aberdeen-based Mark Stewart leads the practice with Christine O’Neill, which features tax specialist Alan Barr, and Susanne Batchelor, who focuses on complex estate planning matters. Other areas of activity include handling claims of breach of trust and actions to remove trustees. Over in Glasgow, Angela McCulloch acts for trustees, executors and individuals on estate planning.

Practice head(s):

Mark Stewart; Christine O’Neill

Other key lawyers:

Alan Barr; Angela McCulloch; Susanne Batchelor


‘The team is generally very responsive to requests for support whether for existing mutual clients or new pieces of work. The interaction of the Private Client and Family Teams is a real selling point of the firm as they can offer a wider more rounded service to clients.’

‘Mark Stewart is technically excellent but still accessible to clients and good at explaining the finer points without being too bogged down in detail.’

‘Very well regarded in the sector.’

Angela McCulloch is a stand-out partner for expertise in the sector and has friendly approach’.

‘Alan Barr is also very well respected.’

Gillespie Macandrew LLP

Gillespie Macandrew LLP is noted for its handling of contentious executry and trust administration matters and is led by Agnes Mallon in Edinburgh. The department advises on complex taxation issues, cross-border estate issues, and foreign assets for several clients, including large philanthropic families. Trust disputes are another key area of focus and are handled by Sarah-Jane Macdonald who is rated by clients. Also in the team is solicitor advocate John Stirling, who specialises in legacies and multiple poindings, whilst John McArthur is involved in inheritance tax appeals to the tax tribunals in Scotland. Eilidh Adams in Perth handles multi-jurisdictional estate planning and contentious issues of domicile.

Practice head(s):

Agnes Mallon

Other key lawyers:

Sarah-Jane MacDonald; John Stirling; John McArthur; Eilidh Adams


‘Contentious trusts and probate is quite a small market in Scotland but the team at Gillespie Macandrew is undoubtedly one of the bigger players. They are sought out for their advisory expertise as well as their tactical litigation advice. They are very knowledgeable.’

‘John McArthur knows this area of the law better than almost anyone else.’

‘Sarah-Jane Macdonald is genuinely excellent; her advice and her ability are way beyond her years and she has a genuine passion for the work.’

‘Agnes Mallon is approachable and practical in her approach to providing legal support. The firm is responsive.’

Morton Fraser

Morton Fraser’s practice group is jointly overseen by Edinburgh-based duo Richard Richard McMeeken and Sue Hunter, and has a track record in acting for high-net-worth families and individuals on succession planning, and the administration of trusts and estates. Probate disputes and complex executry matters are also a focus for the team. Nicola Ross deals with contentious executries and disputes, while senior solicitor Ailie Crawford departed the team to join energy regulator Ofgem as a legal advisor.

Practice head(s):

Richard McMeeken; Sue Hunter

Other key lawyers:

Nicola Ross


‘Richard McMeekin has been very patient dealing not only with me on this matter but with my elderly mother too. Strong team, and professional approach.’

‘Richard McMeeken brings strong legal knowledge, and a pragmatic approach to resolving issues.’

Shepherd and Wedderburn

At Shepherd and Wedderburn, the contentious trusts and probates group continues to handle high-value and complex trust and executry disputes for a steady stream of private individuals and trustee clients. The practice is jointly managed by Christopher McGill, who advises on tax planning, and Elaine Brailsford, who is the contact for contested executries and trusts. Also of note is head of private wealth and tax Malcolm Rust, who has over two decades of experience advising on succession planning, while Gillian Campbell provides coverage in Aberdeen. At the associate level, Stephanie Hepburn is recommended for disputes on the validity of wills.

Practice head(s):

Christopher McGill; Elaine Brailsford

Other key lawyers:

Malcolm Rust; Gillian Campbell; Stephanie Hepburn


‘Incredible client base aids technical expertise.’

‘Stephanie Hepburn -is a pleasure to deal with and gives high-level insight.’

Murray Beith Murray

Murray Beith Murray’s boutique practice focuses exclusively on private client services and acts for an array of family trusts, charities and private companies across Scotland. The team excels in high-value, often cross border trust litigation and contentious probate matters for high-net-worth families and individuals, and is overseen by Andrew Paterson in Edinburgh; Peter Shand‘s practice covers succession and tax planning.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Paterson

Other key lawyers:

Peter Shand; Hugh Younger


‘Excellent support from Andrew Paterson and team. Impressed by the speedy replies. Gives informed advice relevant to my situation. Estate was dealt with in a timely manner. Billing is always clear and fair. Very professional and help was given when needed.’

‘Andrew Paterson – outstanding professional. Extremely efficient , couldn’t ask for more. Totally trustworthy and understanding. Very happy with his services. No complaints. Questions are always answered promptly.’

‘From the first introductory meeting via video-conference, through to regular updates via email, and online billing, MBM has used technology to great effect.’

‘Andrew Paterson was a pleasure to deal with. He was willing and able to promptly answer any questions we had to a more than satisfactory level.’

‘Andrew Paterson’s grasp of our case was complete, and was adept—without requiring our input or direction—at keeping the estate’s solicitor in check, even going so far as to correct their mistakes.’

Work highlights

  • Advising Trustees regarding options to restructure a third-generation family Trust to reflect future needs and update a convoluted, historic Trust Deed.
  • Advising in relation to a potential claim by beneficiaries against Executors and their solicitors in relation to the administration of a deceased’s estate.

Burness Paull LLP

Burness Paull LLP’s private client team is led out of Aberdeen by Colin McKenzie and handles contentious wills, trusts and succession planning matters for beneficiaries, fiduciaries and executors. The group also leverages a strong disputes practice headed by Gary Moffat. Accredited specialist Claire Macpherson is based in Glasgow and is skilled in the international aspects of estates and inheritance tax.

Practice head(s):

Colin McKenzie

Other key lawyers:

Claire Macpherson; Gary Moffat


‘Claire Macpherson has a very sound knowledge of complex trusts for high-net-worth clients.’

‘Colin McKenzie is someone trusted by clients and their advisors to handle very complex arrangements and bring parties together.’

‘The Burness Paull private capital team are high quality advisors to wealthy individuals and trusts. Their support for complex and often difficult decision making and clear advice, often navigating conflict stands out.’

Work highlights

  • Instructed to provide a report to the US court-appointed trustee of a US trust which had a Scottish-based beneficiary.
  • Contacted by the London office of an international law firm to advise the ultimate client, a global tech giant, through its overseas subsidiary, in relation to Scottish succession law.
  • Acting in a dispute regarding the capital beneficiaries of a long running Liferent Trust. Our clients are a charitable trust who may have had an entitlement to funds bequeathed to trust over 40 years ago by a notable former Scottish football manager.